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1859.] 491 

Obseevations on Illegitimacy in the London Paeishes of 
St. Maeylebone, St. Panoeas, and St. Geoege's, South- 
wakk, during the Teae 1857 ; deduced from the Returns of the 
Registrar-General. By "William Acton, Member of the Royal 
College of Surgeons, and Fellow of the Medico-Ohirwrgical and 
Statistical Societies. 

[Read before the Statistical Society of London, 17th May, 1859.] 

Theee are questions, and illegitimacy is one of them, from the con- 
sideration of which — whatever of disagreeable or repulsive the task 
may involve — the advocates of social progress must no longer shrink. 

Social evils claim, as urgently, to be investigated and discussed as 
physical plague spots. It is conceded on all hands, even in what is 
termed " Society," that society itself, moved by public opinion, must 
take action against these evils if it be desirable to remedy them. 
Society has resolved upon abandoning the fictitious delicacy that was 
once a false film before its eyes and a lying curb upon its honest 
tongue, and no longer ignores them. I need hardly, therefore, 
apologize for introducing the subject of illegitimacy to the notice 
of a body whose self-imposed task and duty is the careful collection 
of what I may fairly call the raw material of truths. No social evil 
more constantly and obtrusively presents itself before us than 
Illegitimacy, yet curiously enough it has no literature. I have 
looked through the lately published catalogue of our library, and 
failed to find mention of the word. With the exception of some 
few books relative to Foundling Hospitals, I experience the same 
plentiful lack of information when I consult the libraries of the 
Eoyal College of Surgeons and of the Eoyal Medico-Chirurgical 
Society. I would fain hope, however, that in future this subject will 
occupy its fair share of the attention of Statisticians, particularly 
when I state that in the year 1856, according to the Eegistrar- 
General's statistics, 42,651 illegitimate children were bom in England 
and "Wales ; while in Scotland no less than 2,761 of them came into 
the world during 1858. 

The following deductions are drawn from the unpublished returns 
of the Eegistrar-General. At my solicitation, Major Graham has, 
with his well-known good feeling, and I fear at considerable trouble 
to his staff, forwarded me an amended copy of the notes returned to 
his department, relating to the deaths of children under five years 
of age, being the offsprings of unmarried women during the year 
1857. In this table, I find fully detailed the sex of each infant, its 
age at death ; the occupation of the mother ; the immediate 

Illegitimacy in the London Parishes of 


cause of death ; whether it took place in a woekhouse ; or whether 
an inquest was held on it. From other sources I have been ahle to 
ascertain the occupations of the eathebs of 170 illegitimate 
children, as well as the ages or the mothees. I have been at 
some pains to collect accurate information on the actual wobk- 
ing op the pbesent Bastabdy Law, and I have pointed out its 
harassing bearing on the woman who would affiliate a child on its 
putative father, as well as its oppressive action on the ratepayers. 

In commenting on the tables of violent deaths and on the 
inquests that have been held on the bodies of illegitimate children, 
I have considered the punishments now attending on Infan- 
ticide, and proved by the returns of the criminal statistics, that 
Judges, Juries, Secretaries of State (from extenuating circumstances 
which one and all are obliged to consider), rarely carry out the letter 
of the law. From these premises I argue that a complete revision 
of the whole Bastardy enactment is loudly called for. 

In the course of my inquiries, I found that no child could be 
buried without a certificate from the district registrar ; to obtain this 
the mother presents herself to that official, and her answers to 
certain questions are noted by him and handed in to the central 
office. Thus it became a mere matter of labour to ascertain the 
amount of mortality of illegitimate infants, by observing the number 
of entries in the name of the mother — not of the father. By this 
process I arrive at a total of 392 illegitimate children who died 
during the year 1857 in the three London parishes of Marylebone, 
St. Pancras, and St. G-eorge's, Southwark. No reasonable doubt 
can exist of the general accuracy of this first total, and I believe 
those that follow, having reference to the sex and age of the infants 
and the occupations of their mothers and fathers, will be found 
equally reliable. 

The Sex. — In looking over the tables, I found that there were 
189 males and 203 females buried in the year 1857. 

The Age at Death. — The next fact to be ascertained was the 
age (between one week and one year) at which the greater propor- 
tion of the children die; to ascertain this, I made the annexed 
table : — 

Age of Child. 


St. Pancras. 

St. George's. 






Above 1 week and under 1 month 











1859.] Marylebone, Pancras, and St. George's, Southwark. 493 

These figures show that out of 388 illegitimate children that died in 
1857, the large proportion of 326 died before they were one year old. 
The most fatal period is found to be between the ages of one month 
and three months ; during this 110 perished. The next fatal period 
is from the third to the sixth month, when disease carried off 74. 
If a child survives this dangerous epoch, it may probably live. The 
third period of greatest fatality is from birth to a month old ; death 
seems to overtake few under a week old, and it would really appear, 
from these statistics, that notwithstanding all the misery of the 
mothers and the destitution they undergo, previous and subsequent 
to their confinement, the illegitimate child is born healthy, and would 
survive if the mother could at the same time nourish it and gain her live- 
lihood. But I believe that the great mortality above shown to attend 
infants between the first and third months of their age, occurs either 
from their being put out to nurse and so losing the benefit of their 
natural nutriment, or from failure in the supply of breast milk through 
the destitution of the mother. Such a supposition appears borne 
out by the experience I acquire on all sides ; and it is an impor- 
tant element in calculating the expectation of life of illegitimate 

The Occupation of the Mother. — It will appear from the 
annexed table that among the known occupations of 339 mothers 
(of 1857) were the following : — 

Occupations of Mother. 



St. Pancras. 


St. George's. 























Domestic servants then figure most largely, for they amount in 
the above table to 194. The fact that a large proportion of the 
mothers of illegitimate children have been in service is very impor- 
tant, and shews us of how many unfortunates the reclamation by 
re-employment, in nursing or household work, is particularly in the 
hands of the Ladies of England.* 

* I am well aware it may be retorted on me, that by thus advocating the 
system of the mothers of illegitimate children going out as wet-nurses, I am 
encouraging them to desert their own children, and thus further swelling the 

494 Illegitimacy in the London Parishes of [Dec. 

In the second rank stand those whose occupation " is not stated," 
amounting to 89 ; then figure " dressmakers " 33 ; and lastly, girls 
who earn their livelihood by working in the various petty trades, 
such as " shoe binding," " flower making," &c, amounting to 16. 
In looking over the lists, I find the term " gentlewoman " occa- 
sionally set down as the occupation of the mother ; " barmaids " not 
unfrequently figure there, as well as an occasional " ballet dancer," 
" farmer's daughter," " companion to a lady," and " housekeeper." 
And lastly, I beg especially to call attention to the fact, that the 
registrars of both Marylebone and St. Pancras have noticed that in 
four cases the father has married the mother since the birth of the 
child. This is very encouraging, as bearing out the opinion I have 
advanced elsewhere, that if the woman were cared for, these marriages 
would be much more common. 

In prosecuting my inquiries, I have met with much corroborative 
evidence, bearing out opinions I have long since maintained, that 
marriage (within her degree) is the most natural, safe, and certain 
way in which the mother of an illegitimate child can be permanently 
assisted. I have no hesitation in saying, that the energies of the phi- 
lanthropist and the parish officer should be more especially directed 
to this great object. Mr. Tubbs, the relieving officer of the parish 
of St. Marylebone, strongly advocates these marriages. In a large 
number of instances, we are well aware the men will not and cannot 
marry ; but a parish officer meets with many other cases, in which, 
were persuasion brought well to bear, or could some slight pecuniary 
encouragement be forthcoming, the father of the child would marry 
the mother and become a reformed character. The remission of fees 
by the clergyman has been found very beneficial in certain instances, 
together with a little advice -by those taking an interest in parish 
matters. I am well aware that some disinclination still exists in the 
minds of many sensible people, to assist women who have given birth 
to illegitimate children, but I am not the less sure, that not the least 
result of the ventilation of " the great social evil question " has been 
the growth of Christian change in this respect. 

The Occupation of the Fathers. — In the tables of the 
Registrar- General, no notice of the occupation of the alleged father 
of the illegitimate child is taken, but through the kindness of 
Dr. Randall, the medical officer of the Marylebone Infirmary, I am 
enabled to publish the annexed valuable table : — 

infant mortality. I admit that the mortality of infant bastards and their 
mothers is now very large, that I can conceive its aggravation, not a possible, but, on 
the contrary, its diminution a certain consequence of any improvement of the 
circumstances of the latter. 

1859.] Marylebone, Pamcras, and St. George's, Southwark. 495 

The Occupation of the Fathers of the Children of the Single Women. 

Bakers 2 

Blacksmiths .... 2 

Bookbinder .... 1 

Bricklayers .... 8 

Batchers 4 

Butters 2 

Cabinetmakers 3 

Cabmen 5 

Carman 1 

Carpenters .... 11 

Carter 1 

Carver 1 

Cigar Makers 2 

Clerks 6 

Coachbuilder .. 1 

Coachmen .... 3 

Collarmaker .... 1 

Costermonger 1 

Dyer 1 

Engineers 3 

French Po- "I ., 
lishers ..../ 

Gardeners 2 

Gasfitter 1 

Gentlemen .... 6 

Greengrocer .... 1 

Grinder 1 

Groom 1 

Hairdresser .... 1 

Horsekeeper.... 1 

Joiner 1 

Keeper of 1 . 
Lunatics.. J 

Labourers 20 

Lathrender .... 1 

Leathercutter 1 

Ostlers 2 

Painter 4 

Policemen 2 

Plasterer 1 

Potmen 2 

Porters 4 

Printer 1 

Publican 1 

Railway Guard 1 

Sailors 2 

Servants 17 






Shoemakers . 


Tailors 8 

Undertaker .... 1 
Upholsterer .... 1 
Whitesmiths.... 3 
Unknown 13 



These were the fathers of the 180 illegitimate children born in 
the Workhouse of Marylebone, and 46 of whose deaths figure in the 
above returns of the Registrar-General. I only offer this table for 
what it is worth ; as indicating, to some extent, the position of the 
putative fathers of illegitimate children born in workhouses. I have 
no suspicion of misrepresentation by the woman, because when inter- 
rogated she voluntarily gives the address, as well as the position in 
life, of the father. 

As a general rule, few women who could father a child upon a 
gentleman, come into a workhouse. Such unmarried pregnant 
women, are usually confined by private practitioners, yet in the 
above list we find that " 6 gentlemen," " 1 surgeon," " 1 solicitor," 
were the fathers of illegitimate children born in the workhouse. It 
appears from the table, that no less than 20 persons, coming under 
the denomination of "labourers," were the alleged fathers of illegiti- 
mate children, which favours the position that the promiscuous herd- 
ing of the lower classes, contributes largely to corrupt the morals of 
the female poor. Male domestics next appear as the most numerous 
class of fathers ; this is, quite, what one migbt expect, and if the 
specified " 3 coachmen," " 2 butlers," " 2 gardeners," and " 1 groom," 
are added to the list of unenumerated servants, it amounts to 25. 
Bearing in mind what has been shown in a preceding table, that 194 
mothers were themselves domestics, it would appear as though the 
present system of keeping a large number of single men and women 
in households, is productive of a considerable proportion of illegiti- 
mate children. I next find 13 women stated that the father of their 
child was unknown. In a few, a very few, of these cases, I admit 
the female's inability, out of a variety of paramours, to fix upon an 
individual, but I fancy it much more often happens that a woman in 

496 Illegitimacy in the London Parishes of [Dec. 

her first pregnancy declines to indicate the father of her child, either 
from devoted consideration for his feelings, or in the belief that he 
cannot afford to pay for her confinement, yet may make her an 
honest woman by marriage, as soon as he can save a little money. 
The tenderness, in the first of these cases, is too often undeserved 
and thrown away, and in the second, the hopes of the victim are too 
often found delusive. 

I have few remarks to make on the occupations of the other 
fathers — " carpenters (11)," " bricklayers (8)," "tailors (8)," are a 
class of men receiving good wages, and doubtless decoy women under 
the pretence of marriage, but should pregnancy supervene, refuse to 
fulfil their promises. The uniform of the soldier makes him always 
a dangerous lover, his poor pay will scarcely ever enable him to 
marry the woman he has seduced. That the clerks of London (6) 
contribute their share to the whole illegitimate births of the town, 
I feel pretty well convinced; but I suppose that their mistresses 
seek not the workhouse for their accouchments. A great outcry has 
been raised against the policeman, but this return proves that only 
two mothers have accused the force of being the fathers of their 
children. They have, it is well known, ample facilities, but it is 
surprising (that numerous as they are in the northern and western 
parishes) they seem no more effective against female virtue than 
sailors. Probably, however, in the eastern parishes the proportions 
would be varied ; although even there his transient visits hardly 
allow the latter time to be a seducer. I must admit that I was un- 
prepared to find the " cabmen " of London in the latter category, but 
no less than five are stated to be the fathers of illegitimate children 
born in the workhouse. Mr. Tubbs thinks it probable, that the 
fathers described as " cabmen," might have worked the evil attributed 
to them, in more idle and prosperous days, as gentlemen's servants, 
driving cabs being often the only available resource for discharged 
grooms, coachmen, or stable hands. 

Facilities fob Affiliation of the Child. — Tou may sup- 
pose, that an able and intelligent relieving officer like the Mr. Tubbs 
I have spoken of, would be enabled to assist a large portion of these 
170 women to recover from the fathers of their offspring the usual 
Is. 6d. or 2s. 6d. a week for the support of the children, as well as 
some pecuniary compensation towards the expenses of the parish on 
account of the lying-in. Such an officer, will however, turning to the 
Act of Parliament, inform the ratepayers that he is expressly for- 
bidden to interfere in this matter. I will detain you a few minutes 
while I read a clause which must govern his conduct from the Act 
7 and 8 Vict., cap. 101, sec. 7. 

" And be it enacted, that it snail not be lawful for any justice of the peace to 
appoint any officer of any parish or onion to have the custody of any bastard child 

1859.] Jifarylebone, Pancras, and St. George's, Southwark. 497 

as hereinbefore provided, or for any officer of any parish or union, clerk of justices, 
or constable, to receive any money in respect of any bastard child under an order 
of petty session as aforesaid, or as such officer to conduct any application to make 
or enforce such order, or in any way to interfere as stick officer in causing such 
application to be made, or in procuring evidence in support of such application, 
under a penalty of forty shillings, to be levied on conviction before any two 
justices, as penalties and forfeitures under the said first-recited Act : Provided 
always, that after the death of such mother, or if such mother be incapacitated as 
aforesaid, so often as any bastard child, for whose maintenance such order of petty 
sessions has been macfe, becomes chargeable to any parish or union by the neglect 
of the putative father to make the payments due under the orders of justices, then 
and in such case it shall be lawful for any Board of Guardians of an union or 
parish, or if there be no such Board of Guardians, for the Overseers of any parish 
or place to make such application for the enforcement of the order as might have 
been made by the mother of such bastard child if alive ; but all payments for the 
maintenance of such child made in pursuance of such application, shall be made to 
some person to be from time to time appointed by the justices as hereinbefore 
provided, and on condition that such bastard child shall cease to be chargeable to 
such parish or union." 

Debarred, then, from legal assistance from the parish, during her 
lifetime, the mother's usual course is to apply to a magistrate, who 
on the payment of 2s. will grant her a summons to be served on the 
putative father, if lie can be found. This is however no easy task, 
particularly in cases when such father (as often happens) has changed 
his place of abode, and has obtained employment in some distant 
part of the country, with a view to conceal his whereabouts. Be it 
moreover understood, that the female must deposit in the hands of 
the summoning officer, a sum to cover the expense of making these 
distant enquiries. But supposing the summons served, and the 
putative father present, the magistrate, provided the mother's state- 
ments can be corroborated by other testimony in some material par- 
ticular, can only adjudge him to pay any sum not exceeding 2s. 6d. 
a week towards the maintenance of the child until it attains its 
thirteenth year. Magistrates and relieving officers all agree on the 
hardship of this course, yet in the present state of the bastardy law, 
there is no alternative, and it is only by the preceding cumbersome 
machinery, that a seducer can be reached, and then after all, the 
regular payment of the weekly allowance is by no means secured to 
the woman by this plan, as no security is taken for it. The man, if 
so disposed, can walk away, adopt a new hiding place, and set the 
unfortunate at defiance. The latter may, it is true, again appeal to 
the magistrate, and he after swearing her that she is not married, 
that the father has not paid the sum ordered, and the child is still 
alive, may, on the payment of an additional sum, to cover new 
expenses, issue his warrant for the apprehension of the recusant. 
But I would ask, can the majority of mothers be expected to incur 
the expenses of this ordeal ? 

The practical working of the present bastardy law is to force the 


Illegitimacy in the London Parishes of 


mother upon the parish for relief. My informant, Mr. Tubbs, tells 
me, there are now 85 persons receiving the weekly pittance of Is. 
each from the parish of Marylebone, because they have not taken 
the necessary steps, or having taken them, have failed to recover 
from the fathers of their bastards. 

I find, moreover, that on the 1st of January, 1858, that no less 
than 14,417 children, exclusive of 312 mothers of illegitimate 
children, were charged under similar circumstances, upon the paro- 
chial rates, in 629 unions and single parishes in England and Wales, 
having a population of 16,628,399 persons, as the following table will 
show : — 

In-door relief .. 
Out-door relief 

Total .. 
Total .. 


Children under 16 

of Able-bodied 




Children under 16, 


not Able-bodied 





Shamefully small as is the pittance I have referred to, as doled 
out to the mothers of bastards in the metropolis, can anything be 
more oppressive than that it should fall at all upon the ratepayers ? 
Can anything be more iniquitous, towards the unfortunate woman, 
than this system? Should not the Act, which alike debars the 
relieving officer from assisting the mother, and from procuring the 
re-imbursement of the charges the parish has been put to, be at once 
repealed ? Mr. Tubbs suggests, that parishes should have the same 
power given them, of recovering the sums they have expended, from 
the fathers of illegitimate children, as they now have from the 
fathers of legitimate ones. Such an enactment would have a healthy 
tendency in checking seduction and relieving the rates, while at the 
same time it would remove one of the most crying evils of the present 
poor law. 

From the judicial statistics for .England in 1857, I learn that 
5,816 men were taken into custody for disobeying bastardy orders, in 
the year 1857. Of these, 2,860 were discharged, and 2,956 were con- 
victed. Of the latter, 235 were committed for three months and 
above two, 130 for two months and above one, 143 for one month 
and above fourteen days, 21 for fourteen days and under ; 814 were 
fined ; and 1,610 were punished. Erom the above alleged facts, it is 

1859.] Marylebone, Pancras, and St. George's, Southwark. 499 

probable that the mothers must have enforced the law, for parishes 
(as I have above shown) could not have interfered. 

I cannot leave this part of my subject without recommending the 
re-enactment of a very beneficial section of the old Poor Law as it 
stood before its revision in 1834. It was in those days possible, if a 
pregnant girl came before the parochial authorities indicating the 
author of her condition, for the parish to take steps, that her accouch- 
ment and the rearing of the child, did not fall upon the parish ; the 
latter having power to recover from the father. In any reform of the 
bastardy laws, the restoration of this clause in some form or other, 
is, I think, called for. There is, however, another way in which the 
seducer of a woman can be reached, and society vindicated. Her 
parent, or relation standing in loco parentis, may bring an action for 
loss of her services, and recover damages, or she herself, supposing 
seduction has occurred after promise of marriage, may proceed for 
the breach for that promise. I have lately paid considerable atten- 
tion to the reported decisions of this kind, and my impression is, that 
the law, as it at present stands, is quite equal to vindicate the parent 
as well as outraged public feeling. The only obstacle, to its general 
employment, is its costliness. Could a summary way be devised, of 
bringing this form of justice within the reach of the really poor, a 
great benefit would accrue to society, and the seduction of women, 
whether effected to please themselves or their paramours, would 
become a luxurious and expensive rarity. With respect to 

The age of the Mothers. — I am again indebted to the kind- 
ness of Dr. Eandall for the annexed table. 

Two hundred and thirty-three women have been confined during 
the year 1857, in the midwifery wards of the St. Marylebone Work- 

Of these there were 

Married women 55 

Single , 178 

Of the single 

Between the ages of 17 and 20 there were 43 

21 „ 30 „ 123 

31 „ 40 „ 10 

Of the age of 13 there was 1 

» ,t 43 „ 1 

Total 178 

From 17 to 30, then, are the 13 years during which woman most 
frequently yeilds to temptation. See her safely through them, and 
she may generally be left to take care of herself, although the table 
shows that even at the maturity of 43, one woman was not old 
enough to protect her virtue. 


Illegitimacy in the London Parishet of 


In looking over the tabulated Causes oe Ineant Bastabd 
Deaths, I have attempted, in vain, to classify the diseases; they 
are as various as are the causes of death among legitimate infants, 
and the returns of the Registrar-General cannot enter into all 
particulars. But if we fail easily to classify the immediate cause 
of death, no one can read (however hastily) this death list, without 
noticing such headings as "want of breast milk," "accidental suffo- 
" cation," " low vitality," "marasmus," "atrophy," "emaciation," 
" exhaustion from diarrhoea," " gradual wasting from birth," " depri- 
" vation of breast milk," " want of maternal nourishment, the 
mother being ill of small-pox," "accelerated by cold," "suffocated 
" in bed," " lying on its face." 

One thing, however, is apparent, and highly important; among all 
these 392 children, only 16 bore marks of having died of specific 
disease, namely, syphilis. Of the mothers of these 16, eight were 
servants, four of occupation not stated, one was a barmaid, one an 
artificial flower maker, and one a dressmaker. 

Deaths taking place in Wobkhouses. — Another sad tale is 
developed in these statistics, for we find that 131 children died in, or 
were buried from, workhouses. Thus Marylebone workhouse con- 
tributed 65, St. Pancras 51, St. George's Southwark, 16. 

Pbopobtion of Deaths among Illegitimate Childben. — I 
presume there are few persons, who have given even but cursory 
attention to the subject of vital statistics, but must have been con- 
vinced that the proportion of deaths occurring among bastard 
children, was very large. What that proportion was, no one up to 
the present day has been able to surmise, and even now, with the 
Registrar-General's figures before me, I regret to say, that the exact 
proportion, even in these parishes of Marylebone and St. Pancras, 
canriot be exactly ascertained. We may however, from the annexed 
table, arrive at an approximation which may startle some who for the 
first time consider the figures. 




Total, including 


Total, including 












1859.] Marylebone, Pancras, and St. George's, Southwarh. 501 

From this table, it would appear, that out of 877 births, 392, 
that is, nearly half the illegitimate children in these three parishes 
died. In the parish of St. Saviour's, the proportion is just one-half. 
Now admitting the truth of these observations, that probably many 
of the births are not registered, still the mortality is such as the 
public were not prepared to hear of. It surely deserves further 
investigation, and should cause the statesman, and the moralist, to 
consider whether something cannot be done to contract its deplorable 

Inquests. — The cause of death among these children, appears to 
have been attended, in so many cases, with peculiar and suspicious 
circumstances, that I find that inquests were held on 40 of them. 
Of these, 17 were held in the parish of Marylebone, 15 in St. 
Pancras, 8 in St. George's, Southwark. That the frequency of hold- 
ing inquests on the bodies of illegitimate children is not confined to 
London, is proved by some Liverpool returns, showing that in the 
year 1857, inquests were held on 41 bastard children, and I presume, 
had I the means at hand, similar statistics could be obtained from ail 
our large cities, showing equally lamentable results of the desperate 
misery to which the mothers are too often reduced. 

Now these inquests being so numerous you will naturally inquire 
what verdicts were returned, the answer is again given us by that 
stern enunciator of facts and figures, Major Graham, to whose 
kindness I am again indebted for the following table, a condensation 
of a larger one not yet published, which he has placed at my 

Deaths of Male and Female Children under one year op age returned as having 
occurred in England and Wales from the undermentioned violent causes in 
the year 1856. 




Suffocated bed "1 

clothes, &c J 

Suffocated, overlaid 
Murder (not stated) 

Accident (means) .... 
Injury (how or"l 


























Poison (not distin-1 




Godfrey's cordial .... 




„ by food .... 




It is a frightful list : no less than 846 babies are recorded officially, 
as hanged, strangled, poisoned, suffocated, and so forth, during the 
year 1856. The great majority of these we are justified in assuming 

502 Illegitimacy in the London Parishes of [Dec. 

were the illegitimate offsprings of first falls from virtue. Babies 
whose lives might have been saved by the hundreds, only no one 
cared about them. So they are gone with many others to witness 
against us : — and their mothers are where ? 

"We may read these figures as we will, but none may deny that 
they indicate a most awful total of crime. However largely we may 
allow for accident, I have no doubt that most of these children came 
by their deaths in the foulest way. The hopeless difficulty of rear- 
ing her offspring, and their maddening want and misery, — not the 
fear of shame, for to that she is obtuse, have in most of these cases 
caused the mother to raise her hand against the life she has given. 

In a certain number of instances detection follows the committal 
of the crime, and the indignant law officers put on the track of the 
culprit their official detectives. In proportion as the poor creature 
has been previously neglected by society is she now hunted down, 
and her minutest antecedents ferreted out. If there is any part of 
the criminal law which has received greater attention than another, 
it is the means of detecting infanticide, but curiously enough, after 
all this labour, the tests break down, and, whether a child has been 
born alive or dead, remains, after all the efforts of the counsel and 
medical men, a question of a very dubious evidence, the prisoner 
receiving always* the benefit of the doubt 

The collection of a large number of reports of trials that have 
actually taken place, shows that juries in the present day — taking 
into consideration the difficulty of proof — and weighing well the 
great temptations placed in the path of a woman, — the destitution she 
has been exposed to from the neglect of the real or supposed father, 
— the certain degradation that follows the public exposure of her 
shame, and the almost impossibility of supporting herself and infant, 

w iU waver long before finding a poor creature guilty ; and she 

either escapes altogether, or her crime is visited only with the 
punishment of concealment of birth. 

That I am not speaking without some authority, let me give in 
proof the return by the Metropolitan Police, an important docu- 
ment that few of us consult, although it gives a considerable insight 
into this subject. Thus we find that during the year 1857, eighteen 
females were taken into custody for concealing the birth of their 
infants ; eight were discharged by the police magistrates, ten were 
committed for trial ; of these two were convicted, six were acquitted, 
two bills not found or not prosecuted. The ages of the committed 
were, one under 20, six under 25, one under 30, two under 40. The 
punishments of the two convicted were one month and under six 

It however appears from another table, that even if a mother 
murder her child and the crime be brought home to her in the 

1859.] Marylebone, Pcmcrat, and St. George's, Souihwark. 503 

clearest manner, she by no means undergoes as a matter of course 
the penalty awarded by the code. During the last twelve months 
several marked cases of child murder have been proved ; those by Mary 
Jones, tried at Kingston, and Mary Newell, tried at Oxford, may be 
fresh in public recollection. Both of these women were left for 
execution : but both of them -were, by a merciful legal fiction, 
reprieved as criminal lunatics. I find that in 1856 five females were 
imprisoned as criminal lunatics under sign manual warrants from 
the Secretary of State, for concealing birth and infanticide. Their 
periods of detention were fixed as follows : — 

For 1 year and under 2 

„ 2 years and above 1 

tt 5 ,, 3 

I infer, then, that in the present state of society, the pains and 
penalties against infanticide, strong as they are, cannot be carried 
into effect ; and that the scale of them (like many other portions 
of our criminal laws) requires revision. The law is inefficacious, 
inasmuch as it neither punishes nor prevents the crime (the object 
of all laws) ; the feeling of the juries, as well as the public, being 
with the criminal. If a woman wishes to destroy her child, she can 
do so despite the law. Let me give an instance from the "Times " 
of August 21st, 1858 :— 

" Central Criminal Court, August 20, before Mr. Prendergast, Q.C., Rebecca 
Wells, 22, spinster, was indicted for endeavouring to conceal tbe birth of her 
female child. Mr. Orridge prosecuted and Mr. Sleigh defended. The prisoner had 
previously to the 21st of June been in the service of a lady in Beauvoir Terrace, 
Stoke Newington, and upon that day the lady, having her suspicions excited, taxed 
the prisoner with what she thought had occurred, and prisoner did not deny it. 
The police were then called in, and they found the body of the infant in the pipe 
of the water-closet. Mr. J. James, of Nelson Terrace, Stoke Newington, surgeon, 
stated that in his opinion the prisoner had been prematurely and unexpectedly 
delivered where the child was found. The learned Commissioner said, if that was 
so there was no case to go to the jury. However wrong the prisoner's conduct had 
been, as she had done nothing to dispose of the body, she could not be found guilty 
of concealing the birth of the child. We might talk about India, but he was sorry 
to say infanticide was carried on to a great extent in this country, and strong 
measures should be taken to repress it Incontinence was one thing and child 
murder another. The prisoner was then ordered to be discharged." 

I could multiply instances did time allow me. If a woman, says 
Mr. "Wakley, is delivered over a pail of water and the child dropped 
into the water, no one can say whether or not the child has been 
wilfully destroyed. Let a woman but place a child (as it appears is 
often done) in such a position that it shall inhale the same air that 
it has repeatedly respired, and it dies. Let us hear Mr. Wakley, 
than whom a better authority cannot be cited, on this Massacre of 



504 Illegitimacy in the London Parishes of [Dec. 

" On the 13th of May last, two inquests were held by that gentleman as 
Coroner for West Middlesex, upon the bodies of two infants un Jer 8 months, who 
were suffocated by " carbonic acid gas," arising from inhaling their own breath, by 
being placed by the mothers under the bedclothes during the night. In the course 
of such inquiry, the Coroner took occasion to state that the evil of infants being 
suffocated by the mothers, for want of necessary precaution (not to say ignorance 
and neglect), was becoming truly alarming. During the last several months the 
sacrifice of infants, from a month to a twelvemonth old, could scarcely be credited ; 
but he (the Coroner), holding the office he did, was the only one who could speak as 
to the extent of so serious an evil, as far, at least, as his extensive district was 
concerned. He had observed that during the winter and cold spring months the 
mortality of infants from carbonic acid gas, in inhaling their own breath whilst 
under the bedclothes, was 95 per cent, more than in the summer months. The 
reason being obvious, as in the latter months the bedclothes were thrown off in a 
great measure from both parents and infants, so that the latter were able to breathe 
pure air. He (the Coroner) had been in hopes, from the constant publicity given 
in the public journals to the prevalence of this evil, that it would be considerably 
upon the decrease ; but he regretted to say that such was not the case. He should, 
•however, persevere in his endeavours, and he earnestly hoped in time, with the 
assistance of the profession and the press in giving publicity to such cases, to be 
successful in totally eradicating this deplorable evil." 

In conclusion, I beg to observe that it has not been my object on 
the present occasion to point out the remedies, this has been already 
done in an appeal that I (in conjunction with my friend Mr. "White- 
home) have made to the Charity Commissioners, but I may here 
recapitulate some of my views. I look for remedies, strange though 
at first sight it may appear, not altogether in the better education of 
the more exposed class of women, or in higher wages. Desirable as 
these unquestionably are, they will not, in my opinion, prevent 
seduction. To cnt off the supply of harlotry, the demand must be 
checked by taking greater precautions than we now do to make the 
seduces (and this, too, is merely a conventional term) suffer either 
in person or in purse. I propose the establishment of a Govern- 
ment Board, or other competent authority, whose duty it shall be to 
take charge of the pregnant woman thrown out of a situation ; then 
to afford her work and assistance until confinement ; then to see to 
her lying-in ; and then to take steps to recover damages in the name 
of injured and outraged virtue and society from the fatheb of the 
child. In doing this it would be obviously necessary, as at present, 
to guard against affiliating the child on the wrong person, and to see 
that the mother did not profit by the money so obtained, for this 
were no better than opening a regular and profitable market for 
female honour. The Board suggested should invest the funds so 
accruing for the keep and education of illegitimate children. "Were 
the institution a recognised and a public one, I think the profession 
will bear me out that a good proportion of the mothers might be 
found situations as wet-nurses (for from this source wet-nurses are 
now procured, but with fear and trembling), and hence have an 
opportunity of recovering a position in society. The situation of 

1859.] Marylebone, Panoras, and St. George's, Southwark. 505 

wet-nurse would be acceptable and open to many thousands of 
women, were they cared for from the time of their exposure to that 
of their confinement, a period most trying to the unfortunate, and 
neglect during which, leads too often to her permanent ill-health, 
and to the birth of so sickly an infant that the mother loses all 
chance of being taken as a wet-nurse. Further, I believe that if 
these women were thus relieved, a large number would be rescued 
from their position by marriage with their first paramours, when the 
latter were persons in the same rank of life as themselves. By 
applying such natural remedies, I think that illegitimacy might 
certainly be checked, and its sad consequences much softened to the 
unhappy mothers. I think some such system as the above would be 
far better than the continuance of the existing Foundling Hospital, 
which has ceased, I believe, to carry out the true intent and mean- 
ing of its founder. With a revenue of the present value of 11,0002. 
a year, and with an assured income within the present century 
(according to the statements of the Charity Commissioners) of 
40,000?. a year, this institution so wanders from its legitimate path 
and from propriety of administration, that each of its inmates costs 
it nearly 3G0J. before attaining 15 years of age, besides being 
unhealthy and unnecessarily reared in the atmosphere of the metro- 
polis ; and has but a poor start in life after alL